Do You Know Your Purpose?

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Photo Caption: Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Marian Wright Edelman (my #1 role model, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund) and I.

Faith is my compass. It is the thing/person that I turn to direct my path. Everyone has a different compass, for some, their compass is money. For others, their compass is a romantic relationship. The compass is what compels you. Whatever keeps you up at night or jolts you out of your sleep. The purpose of this post, however, is to talk about purpose.

On most days, I start my day with a bible reading and daily devotional. Currently I am reading “Hearing From God Each Morning” by Joyce Meyer in the free Bible app. You can read more about the Bible App & why I try to start my day with God’s word here: http://donnienicole.com/2013/08/07/how-i-start-my-day-off-right/. Today’s post was inspired by today’s reading, as well as an Inbox Conversation I recently had with one of my students who is struggling with figuring out her purpose and what she wants to do with her life…

So how do you determine your purpose? For most people, their purpose becomes whatever they are good at OR whatever they enjoy doing… If people are good at math, they think, my purpose is to become an accountant. If people enjoy writing, they think, my purpose is to become an author or journalist. While I totally understand that logic, there is a critical component of the purpose equation that many of us are missing. Sister Joyce Meyer says, “When people work in jobs where they are not gifted, they are miserable – and so is everyone around them. But when people are in their proper places, they excel in their jobs and be a blessing to their employees and coworkers.” When you’ve found your purpose, it is a blessing not only to you, but you are a blessing to others. Sister Joyce Meyer continues “If we do what we are good at doing, we will sense God’s anointing (presence and power) on our efforts. We will know we are operating in our gift and that doing so honors God and ministers life to others. God speaks to us through this anointing, giving us peace and joy to know we are fulfilling his plan for our lives.” Just because you are good at something, or enjoy something, does not necessarily mean that is your purpose. In most cases, we are all blessed with certain strengths and certain weaknesses. In the same way that every fingerprint is unique, so are our gifts.

If you are struggling with figuring our your purpose, ask yourself these questions:

(1) What are the skills or actions I am constantly complimented on? (Are you a good listener? Are you extremely patient? Do people walk into your home and instantly compliment you on the decor or energy?)

(2) What do I do in my life right now, that I would do for free because I love it so much?

(3) Which classes did I enjoy the most in school? Which were my least favorite? Why?

(4) What would my perfect day look like (be sure to describe your perfect work day? What would I be doing? (Check out this post where I created my ideal daily schedule! Believe it or not, this IS my schedule now, a little over a year later!)

(5) What do you do that seems super easy? Goes incredibly smooth and brings you much joy? (When God is blessing you, there is little to no effort or struggle on your end. It feels like a “good luck” streak, or like a dream that you are actually living.)

Free Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator Test (scientifically based and universally accepted as a solid test for figuring out your personality type & the type of career path you should take): http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

Multiple Intelligences Self Assessment (another universally accepted test to learn more about yourself): http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-assessment

If you have questions or want me to go into something a little deeper, please leave a comment!

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It’s Been Too Long!!!

I thought about updating DonnieNicole.com with a profound reflective piece, but then decided to do a list instead. Here is my list:

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  • Digging: Mickalene Thomas… http://mickalenethomas.com She uses rhinestones and glitter in her work. I’m pretty sure her stuff has a hefty price tag but I’m committed to buying one of her pieces in my lifetime!!!
  • Not Digging: Talking about problems… I only want to talk about solutions… My favorite quote is “don’t bring me your problems, bring me your proposals.”
  • Drinking: Lots of hot tea – either green or black. Fall was made for hot drinks, cuddles and boots!
  • Eating: Deli sandwiches.
  • Watching: Junk TV, and trying to figure out how I can get my hands on the Beyonce HBO Special that came on about the On The Run Tour… I don’t have HBO.
  • Wearing: my new jeans from Express… I love Express!
  • ReadingManaging the Non-Profit Organization by Peter Drucker. http://www.amazon.com/Managing-Nonprofit-Organization-Peter-Drucker/dp/0060851147. I’d really like to read one non-fiction book a weak.
  • Feeling: Excited about October & November! Something big is happening for Donda’s House Inc. this month (I can’t talk about it publicly yet!) and in November I’m going to Mumbai, India for the first time and and hubby & I are taking a much needed vacation as well as going to a wedding.
  • Weather: FALL!!! My FAVE!
  • Wanting: I’m absolutely content! There isn’t anything that I want right now…
  • Needing: More funding resources for Donda’s House Inc.! If you know of any grants, please forward them our way!
  • Wishing: for a personal trainer… Anyone willing to make me their project until Spring? Maybe we can barter some services lol!
  • Hoping: for a healthy pregnancy sometime soon. I had my second pregnancy ever end in a second miscarriage at the end of August. I was 7 weeks. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 5 months. Keep me & our entire family in your thoughts and prayers. I haven’t given up hope yet!
  • Thinking: of a master plan lol…
  • Enjoying: my husband! I love him so much! Our 5 year wedding anniversary is coming up…
  • Loving: My free Bible App and the daily devotions from Joyce Meyer called “Hearing from God Each Morning.”

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We are Asking the Wrong Question in Ferguson

I couldn’t sleep tonight. The ghosts of black men who have been murdered by police (or police-posers) were haunting me. So I took my grievances to twitter

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I’ve watched countless hours of footage, read hundreds of social media posts daily and I’ve come to the conclusion that to ask “Who killed Mike Brown?” is the wrong question. The question should be “What killed Mike Brown?” 

Racism is a learned behavior. On the surface, the solution would be education. The problem with that solution is that the learned behavior is institutionalized. Whether we are talking about the disparities in the criminal justice system or the classroom, racism is alive and well in America. My fear about the situation in Ferguson, is that we are getting too wrapped up in the individual case. Of course Mike Brown’s murderer needs to be brought to justice, but IF and WHEN that happens, it is not a cause for celebration because the fight is not over. That is only the beginning! The best way that we can honor the life of Mike Brown is to prevent as many black men (and black women, and Latinos) from suffering the same fate. We need to attack WHAT killed Mike Brown, which was institutional racism. It is the same thing that killed Eric Gardner, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo and Fred Hampton. We cannot be nearsighted in our fight for justice, and we cannot be farsighted when we think of all of those who we’ve lost to this SOCIAL (e.g. FIXABLE) reality. 

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Institutional change requires a look at policy (laws), policy makers (the people who create the laws), public institutions (like schools), and protocol (the use of force, the investigation of complaints, etc). Institutional change rarely happens because of one case or event. It examines patterns and trends. It connects the dots. Institutional change would force us to connect Fred Hampton to Trayvon Martin to Renisha McBride to Eric Gardner. Institutional change does not just affect an individual family or community, it SHIFTS an entire state, an entire country, the entire world! Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 overturned Plessy vs. Ferguson from 1896. That institutional change took 58 years and even after the laws were enacted, it took another 3 or so years for institutions to actually obey the law (hence the Little Rock 9). Institutional change takes time and it includes the work of activists, attorneys, educators, journalists, artists – a cross-section of the community working together toward the same goal(s). 

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“Don’t shoot” looks really cute on a t-shirt, but we have to DIG in to the United States constitution, we have to be specific and articulate exactly what needs to change and we have to be consistent, persistent and RELENTLESS about changing WHAT killed Mike Brown… “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King Jr. 

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Who Is Going To Replace You?

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Caption: Kelsey, my assistant & our Social Media Manager, also my little sis & mentee!

While at Echoing Green New Fellows Retreat, we learned about the passing of a fellow at-large and groundbreaking Social Entrepreneur Priya Haji (Read more about her here:  http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2014/07/17/groundbreaking-social-entrepreneur-priya-haji-dies ). Though I did not have the pleasure of meeting Priya Haji, I was incredibly moved by her presence as so many shared the positive impact that she had on their lives and on our world. I was also balancing this notion of “retirement,” considering the fact that Geoffrey Canada recently announced his retirement from the Harlem Children’s Zone, where he became the President in 1990. And then, to think I just left a profession to focus full-time on this work. Transitions happens and whether forced or created, we all have to encounter them and what better way to prepare than “succession planning?” I can’t help but see the word “success” at the beginning of the phrase, which would suggest that this process is essential to planning for success!

Succession planning is not something that most new leaders think of… after all, thinking about “succession” means confronting some deep fears… fear of change… fear of losing control and perhaps even, fear of death. As I consider long-term planning, at the top of my mind and in the center of the conversation will be succession planning. Succession Planning for me means answering the following questions:
(1) Who can I identify now to replace me?
(2) How can I better prepare that (or those) individual(s) to carry on the work (bonus points if we can think of how to better prepare someone we may never have the chance or opportunity to speak to)?
(3) Under what conditions should I change or alter roles (and/or titles) within my organization?
I don’t believe in people dying in leadership positions, particularly when it may be more useful to either “share” or “transfer” power and influence. I don’t believe in only one person who is qualified or prepared to perform a particular task. I’m of the belief that teams work well, and there should always be a person or group of persons “in the pipeline.” There is one person who I am actively grooming to “replace” me, but based on my new insights thanks to my new fellowship, I am planning to bump that number up to three.
When it comes to carrying on the work, that includes not only the technical side of things – raising money, planning and implementing programming, but also values – integrity, creativity, social justice. While I may not be in a position to work with a multitude of individuals to train them on how to become an Executive Director… I’d like my approach to my work and how I perform my work, to be an example to others. At the basic level, when people have an interaction with me, I’d like for them to feel better, even if the interaction is not under ideal circumstances.
In terms of changing or altering roles, I am still very early in my career, but I believe that if I ever get too physically, mentally, or emotionally ill to continue on with this work – I will move to the side. There may come a time when I am called to do something else, either connected to or to evolve the mission of Donda’s House. Right now I am very much emotionally connected (attached by umbilical cord) to this work, but I have seen situations where the cord just had to be cut – for the health of either the mother or the baby. 10 years ago, you couldn’t have told me that one day I would leave teaching in a traditional classroom setting, let alone, start a new business!
So, no matter what you’re doing, I’d ask you to consider the three questions above, and start implementing a plan for someone else to walk in your shoes…

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I Quit My Job…To Change The World…

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I started working at the age of 12, and at many points in my life I had two (sometimes three) jobs, including in High School. Every two weeks, since then, I’ve received at least one paycheck. When your checks are regulated, your meals are regulated and your lifestyle is regulated.

Last August, my husband Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Kanye & I launched Donda’s House, Inc., with a simple idea – that kids deserve access to artistic opportunities. Art changes lives. It certainly changed mine, when I was raped by my mother’s boyfriend at the age of 12. I did not go to counseling or therapy at that time, but I did put ink to paper. My notebook, and reading the poetry of Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni carried me through that confusion, shame and anger… It’s hard to believe it, and downright disgusting that somewhere around 75% of black and Latino youth do not have access to arts instruction. Unfortunately, art is usually the first thing to go when schools face budget crises. Creativity has been relegated to the crevices of public education and when we look at the poor reading and math skills, the violence and the overall funk that low-income communities seem steeped in, there has to be correlation.

After we launched Donda’s House, I quickly realized that not only did I love it more than teaching, but that it was what I was sent to this planet to do. In the same way that plants provide oxygen to humans, I am supposed to advocate for access, build bridges over troubled water and steer this large vessel that we call Donda’s House in the right direction. This is the first job that I’ve had, that is always on my mind, and this is the first job that I’ve had that doesn’t feel like work. I live for the moment that our artists believe that they are talented, for the moments of discomfort where we ask them to do something creatively they’ve never done before, for the final mixed version of the songs that they work all semester for. Besides my family, I live for Donda’s House…

When I submitted my Echoing Green Application in December of 2013, my prayer was if it be God’s will, to make a way to allow me to do Donda’s House full time. The deal that I made with myself was that I could only leave teaching if at least replaced my teaching salary. The day that I received the news was a particularly tough day, and I cried like a baby, because on top of the realization that I was in fact being provided with the opportunity to focus exclusively on Donda’s House, it was confirmation for me, that I have in fact discovered my life’s purpose. Not only does Echoing Green provide seed funding, but I am a part of a 55 member cohort of organizational leaders from all over the world in multiple industries, looking to change the world with a big, bold idea. Read more about all of the fellows here: http://www.echoinggreen.org/blog/whos-next-meet-2014-fellows. One of the first things that I learned is that this work cannot be done alone and a strong tribe (network) is vital to success! Additionally, the support and training that I will receive as a fellow will really help to accelerate my growth as a leader, and our impact as an organization. Also, the fellowship will take me to Mumbai, India later this year!!!

At this moment I am feeling incredibly blessed… a little scared (like going up the hill on a roller coaster scared). My husband joked that I’ve pretty much accomplished everything on my list of 10 year goals (that were set 10 years ago, one of which included to start an organization of my own). He’s challenged me to recreate a list for the next 10 years.

I’m planning to make more time to write, and I’d like to thank you for sharing in my journey! The truth is, I quit my job and I’m changing not only my world, but the world that I live in.  I hope that when I’m no longer here, it can be said that I made the world a better place because there were so many that came before me, who did just that for me. If you haven’t already, please check out Donda’s House: http://dondashouseinc.org/ and join our mailing list: http://dondashouse.us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=3e2f2bf4af854cabb9f6e542c&id=8382974aca.

Love,

Donnie

 

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The Truth About Dream Chasing…

ImagePhoto Caption: On a #dreamchasing Mission in New York, pictured here at the Roc Nation Offices for a meeting!

Had a great conversation with one of my coworkers today about dream chasing. 

My coworker has essentially made the decision to pursue a life-long dream, and this coworker knows about my dream & goal of continuing to build and grow Donda’s House to a point where we exist in every major city and youth around the world can have access to our arts programming FOR FREE! 

The thing about dream chasing is that: 

- It requires more faith than fear… Faith that everything is going to work out. Faith that you aren’t making the biggest mistake in your life. Faith that your needs will be provided for, and that net will catch you before you fall head & face first onto the concrete… 

- It is super delicate… you have to be careful who you share your dream with because some people are dream killers… You’ll find yourself trying to convince and justify your dream so much that you will no longer have the energy to pursue your dream. Be sure that you surround yourself with dream feeders! People that will give you the knowledge, support and resources to make your dream a reality. 

- It requires action… “A goal without a deadline is just a dream…” it will only exist in your heart and in your mind unless you take specific actions on a consistent basis to make the dream real. Don’t focus on the end result… That can be discouraging, instead focus on the baby steps, the small actions that you can take, daily, weekly or  monthly to reach the GOAL. 

Dream chasing is not easy… It takes a lot of energy… can be both emotionally rewarding and emotionally draining, but in the end, you’ll be happy because you are living your life on purpose! 

From one dream chaser to another, I salute you! 

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Usher In The Future That We Imagine Tomorrow…

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I had the honor and the privilege to attend a lecture by Sister (Dr.) Angela Davis earlier tonight with my husband and several of our Donda’s House, Inc. students. I want to share some of the thoughts that resonated with me:

- There is a difference between addressing individuals who commit racist acts vs. addressing structural racism. Emotionalism often causes us to attack the individuals and as Dr. Davis said, it easily reproduces itself…

- We would not have free public education, if it weren’t for slaves…

- Harriet Tubman is a great example of a selfless individual who “ushered in the future that we inhabit today.” Dr. Davis wants us to imagine a world without any guns and without any racism…  Harriet Tubman was referenced as an example of someone who put the needs of the community above her own needs. “We have a hard time imagining anything outside ourselves.

- Mass Incarceration is fueled by racism and the globalization of capital which is fueled by profit and not people’s needs.

- We can’t just address one part of violence or racism and expect it all to go away.

- “Unity + struggle + organization = victory”

My three she roes: Harriet Tubman

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Mrs. Marian Wright Edelman:

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Ella Baker:

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